Current and former Members of Parliament, as well as Ministers and former Ministers choose to school their children in private institutions with the common denominator being the high tuition fees, sometimes as expensive as their yearly government salaries.
Author: Inva Gorellari, Rakela Hunci, William Hysa
Going to public schools for the primary and secondary levels of education is a reality for most children in the country, but this is not an option for the children of the Albanian Members of Parliament (MPs) and Ministers.
An investigation of the Albanian Center for Quality Journalism shows that almost all the Albanian current and former Members of Parliament –who have children aged 8 to 18 – have chosen private education for their children.
Similarly, four current Ministers and the deputy Prime Minister, who have children of this age, have chosen private education.
The investigation took into consideration the MPs who were in the Albanian Parliament in January 2019, as well as the current and former Ministers, since September 2017.
The phenomenon of political representatives choosing en masse private education for their children leads to serious questions about the current level of primary and secondary education in Albania. Though elected to improve this system, they do not choose it for their children, raising doubts that this education might be inadequate for the rest of the children in Albania as well.
Very often, tuition fees for the schools chosen by the lawmakers, Ministers and former Ministers for their children are equal to their yearly salaries, raising important questions about the source of their income.
The investigation shows that the yearly tuition fees for children education are not declared in a special section in the yearly reports on income and expenditure that the elected representatives and the high officials submit to the High Inspectorate on the Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflict of Interest (HIDAACI), making the situation even less transparent.
High fees and lack of transparency
Private schools for primary and secondary level education have been present in Albania for more than two decades now, offering a wide array of innovations and influences in education.
The investigation shows that Albanian Ministers and Members of Parliament have a mix of preferences for the education of their heirs. Schools with Turkish, Greek, French, American, and British influence are all preferred choices for the education of their children. The common denominator are the high fees that they pay, which, according to the investigation, in all cases is at least three thousand euro per year per kid.
But, in many cases, the yearly fees are much higher than that.
The most outstanding case is that of the Chairman of the Democratic Party, former Member of Parliament, Lulzim Basha, whose two daughters study in a private institution where the yearly fees for a student are twenty thousand euros.
Former Ministers (and current Members of parliament) like Arben Ahmetaj, Damian Gjiknuri, Ditmir Bushati, school their children in institutions that charge more than eleven thousand euros per year.
As is the case for the former Member of Parliament from the opposition, Aldo Bumçi.
Meanwhile, some Albanian politicians like Monika Kryemadhi have preferred to send their children – younger than 18 years old – in expensive colleges overseas.
The children of Ministers like Blendi Klosi, Belinda Balluku, Anila Denaj, Ogerta Manastirliu are schooled in educational institutions that cost between three to seven thousand euros per year. This is the case also for current and former Members of Parliament such as Ulsi Manja, Helidon Bushati, Niko Peleshi, Ilir Pendavinji, Albana Vokshi, Blerina Gjylameti, Luçiano Boçi, Grida Duma, Dhurata Çupi, and many more.
Despite this fact, the research conducted by the Center showed that none of the abovementioned or the other elected officials provide information on the yearly declaration of expenses paid for the school tuition of their children.
Socialist MP Niko Peleshi, who schools his three children in a private institution that charges approximately six thousand euro per year/per kid, states for the Center that this decision is a result of the fact that he and his spouse work until late at night.
“The private school that we have chosen compensates our lack of time and opportunity to track the daily development of our kids,” – he said.
According to him, public and private schools have their own advantages and disadvantages and the existence of both systems helps the continual improvement of the level of education.
In reality, Albanian elected politicians do not seem to believe in this coexistence, since there is only one option for them when considering the future of their own children. Meanwhile, for many Albanians, public schools are the only option for their children.
According to the journalist specialized in education, Ermelinda Hoxhaj, the only reason that keeps common citizens from choosing a private school is the lack of economic capacity.
“Unfortunately, private schools offer security, small classrooms, high standards, the option to stay there until the end of the parents’ working hours, food, the opportunity to do the homework while following extracurricular courses, etc.” – emphasizes Hoxhaj.
She states that the last reforms that have been undertaken in regard to primary and secondary education have been rushed and not well-thought-of, creating a chaotic situation.
“Texts have still multiple problems and the new changes have put an extraordinary pressure on the teachers working in the primary and secondary education, while many directories/agencies responsible for these levels of education have been shut down,” – emphasizes Hoxhaj, predicting also a worsening of the situation in the near future.
At a time when public schools, in which hundreds of thousands of children get their knowledge, face low investments and the lack of security and quality of education, those that have the obligation and the possibility to change the situation are not helping much.
Instead of insisting to make public schools worth for their children and the other children of Albania, they choose to put the former in oases that are inaccessible for the latter.
*In the featured photo, one of the expensive private schools in Tirana.